Thursday, 27 August 2015

Rarely seen creatures of Africa - The Short-eared trident bat

With an impressive 1 240 breeds of bats worldwide they make up to 20% of all classified mammal species around the globe. 

Short-eared trident bat
Short-eared trident bat. 
In South Africa alone there are 56 different kinds of bats found. Bats break up into two distinctive groups, fruits bats and insect bats, with insect bats being higher in numbers of species.

Bats are small, shy mammals that take to the skies under the cover of the night in search of food. They are gentle wild animals with fur and forelimbs that form webbed wings.
These unique animals are not blind despite the myth surrounding them. They can all see with their small, black eyes and some even see extremely well.

The short-eared trident bat, also known as a Percival trident bat, is 7 cm in length with a wingspan reaching 15 cm and weighing a mere 5 grams. These small bats have a 3 prolonged trident nose between their beady eyes and small roundish ears sometimes hidden by long fur. Their faces are a whitish-yellow colour with a white to pale yellow underneath and wings dark in colour.
Lesser horseshoe bats roosting. 


Bats live in groups together called colonies. They roost in tight clusters hanging from the ceiling of caves or mine shafts. These winged animals live together ranging in small numbers to numbers in the hundreds.

Short-eared trident bats are found in the North east of vibrant South Africa in the provinces of North West, Gauteng and Mmpulanga. They are also found elsewhere in Zaire, Kenya, Botswana and other southern and central African countries.


They are very clean animals, grooming themselves thoroughly when not eating, sleeping or
attending to pups.  


Short-eared trident bats fall into the group of insect eating bats. Some bats can eat up to 600 bugs in just one hour!

A bat in flight. 
Bats have excellent hearing and use sonar calls referred to as echolocation. The short-eared trident bat uses their sonar calls to locate their bug meals and have the highest recorded echolocation frequency of all bats at 210 kHz. An average human hears a frequency of up to 20 kHz.


Female bats give birth to live bat babies called pups usually once a year. Pups are born pink and hairless with tiny wings. Mothers take care of their pups feeding them milk, teaching them skills to survive and giving them rides on their backs while in flight. Baby bats start learning to fly from 3 weeks of age and by 6 weeks old are able to take flight searching for food like the adult bats.

Short-eared trident bat
Short-eared trident bat.
Mother bats arrange a maternity colony together, finding a safe cave or mine shaft, where they can safely care for their pups. The mother will remember exactly where she left her pup amongst all the other bat babies.

Did you know?

Bats have been known to live up to 40 years.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Get informative about Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis ribbon
Multiple Sclerosis ribbon design.
About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis as an unpredictable and complex condition that affects many people throughout the world. It has an effect on the central nervous system causing the brain to struggle with communication with ones' body. There is no cure as of yet! However research is being undertaken and results are being found.

There are 2.3 million people worldwide having being diagnosed with this disease, most are given the diagnosis between the ages of 20-40. Women have double the chance of being diagnosed with MS than men, possibly due to women being more likely of having a gene associated with the disease. 

The coating around the nerve fibres, called myelin, are damaged when someone has Multiple Sclerosis causing a variety of symptoms. MS is referred to as an autoimmune disease as the body is attacking itself. Treatment and specialized doctors can help people suffering with MS to manage the disease and its accompanying symptoms.

Myelin Multiple Sclerosis
Myelin is damaged when someone has Multiple Sclerosis. 
A relapse lasts more than 24 hours and happens at least 30 days after a previous relapse. A relapse is unique in its severity, length and the symptoms that is comes with. Depending on the type of MS there could also be a period of recovery where no new symptoms show up and the person with MS will feel better.


MS symptoms are a different and unique experience for everyone, the symptoms may appear and vanish or steadily get worse with time. The way that MS impacts a sufferer depends on what part of the brain or spinal cord is being damaged from the disease. There are three stages of symptoms when having Multiple Sclerosis.

Primary – due to the diseases itself. Symptoms include:

·        Extreme fatigue – feeling of being exhausted.
·        Numbness and tingling – pins and needles feeling, strange sensations on face or body.
·        Visual disturbances – blurry eyesight, double vision, pain when moving eyes.
·        Impaired balance and coordination – loss of balance, light-headed, weakness in legs.
·        Difficulty speaking – slurring, scanning speech.
·        Emotional problems – mood swings, depression.
·        Cognitive problems – attention span and memory is affected, learning difficulty.  
·        Tremor – trembling or shaking movement that can’t be controlled.
·        Bladder problems – urinary urgency, incontinence.

Secondary – complications of primary symptoms.

Tertiary symptoms – the effects of having Multiple Sclerosis, such as social, psychological, work related aspects that are affecting ones' day to day life.  

Types of MS

Relapsing-remitting MS – The most common of the types of MS consisting of recurring attacks (relapses) of symptoms followed by recovery phases. This type might lead to Secondary-progressive MS after about 10 years of having RMMS.

Secondary-progressive MS – The second phase for some sufferers of Relapsing-remitting MS. This is a progressive phase; the relapses stop and the disease progressively gets worse.

Primary-progressive MS – There are no relapses or recovery periods, the disease only progressively gets worse. This type of MS is often diagnosed later on in life of MS sufferers.

Progressive-relapsing MS – The least common of the MS types. There will be attacks with which the sufferer might recovery slightly or not and the disease will get worse between relapses.

Treatment options to help alleviate symptoms
Multiple Sclerosis warrior

Healthy diet
Alternative therapies

Ways of coping with MS

Join a MS support group
Talk to family members and friends
Pick up new hobbies

MS terms

Autoimmune disease – The body’s immune system attacks healthy cells, organs and tissues causing illness. An understanding of why is not yet well known.

Central Nervous System (CNS) – A term for the main part of the nervous system; the brain and spinal cord.

Cranial nerves – There are twelve pairs of nerves in the brain that carry sensory, motor and parasympathetic fibres to the face and neck.

Demyelination – The myelin sheath which surrounds the nerve fibres within a person’s central nervous system are destroyed. When this occurs there is an interruption in communication between nerves.

Interferon –A family of three groups of proteins that help fight viral infection or other biological inducers; alpha, beta and gamma.

Lhermitte’s sign – The sensation of an electric shock or ‘pins and needles’ going down the spine into the arms and legs, when the neck is bent forward.

Myelin – They are soft, white coated lipids and proteins that surround the nerve fibres in the central nervous system, speeding up the electric signals that are sent via the nerve fibres.

Neuritis – When the nerves are inflamed and cause nerve damage and is usually part of a degenerative disease.

Sclerosis – A condition where the tissue becomes hard due to fibrous tissue growing.

Multiple sclerosis – When there is a collection of fibrous tissue also known as scars in the brain. The brain struggles to communicate with the body as there is damage done to nerve fibres in the central nervous system.

National Multiple Sclerosis, an American website, offers a wide range of information on MS, such as living with the disease, symptoms, diagnosis and so much more. 

Read about Claudia, an MS warrior's personal journey with having Multiple Sclerosis. 

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Rarely seen creatures of Africa - The Pangolin

A pangolin!
A rarely seen creature by safari travellers the Pangolin is a small mammal covered in tough overlying scales made from keratin - their scales act as armour to protect their insides when rolled into a ball when danger is around. Theses toothless animals have exceptionally long and sticky tongues, poor vision and hearing but a strong sense of smell. A pangolin’s tongue is attached on the inside of their bodies near the pelvis area and last pair of ribs; when fully extended their tongue is longer than that of their body and head!

Pangolins have powerful paws that make for a set of digging machines. There are five toes on each paw and three curved claws on their front paws. They are seen cutely scuffling over ground and can run up to speeds of about 5km/h, sometimes rising on their hind feet to whiff out scents in the air or walk short distances. These unusual animals have adapted to swimming and some species are tree climbers.

The 3 pangolin claws.
The name pangolin comes from the Malay word, pengguling, which translates into ‘to roll up.’ This fascinating animal is sadly on the list for endangered mammals due to the illegal wildlife trade and habitat loss. There are 8 species, with four species found on each continent of Africa and Asia. In Africa the species found south of the Sahara desert are; the Cape or ground pangolin, the tree pangolin, the giant pangolin and the long-tailed pangolin.


In South Africa pangolins are found in the northern parts of the country such as KwaZulu-Natal, North West and Limpopo. They also live in the neighbouring countries of the rainbow nation South Africa such as Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and various other African countries.

These incredibly scaly animals prefer living where there is sandy soil in thick bush or savannah grassland in areas where there are a high number of ant and termite populations. They dig their burrows using their front paws and claws, using their tails and backs legs for support and balance.


Solitary mammals by nature they are elusive and mostly nocturnal.  

Pangolin scales are their armour against predators such as leopards and hyenas. When danger is amidst they quickly roll into a ball, hissing, puffing and thrashing their sharp tails. They are able to release an awful smelling fluid from their anal glands, much like a skunk does, to ward off predators.

These small mammals are reliant on their strong sense of smell and mark their territories for other pangolins to pick up. They use scent markings such as their urine, secretions and sprinkling faeces on the ground to deter other pangolins.

Baby and mother pangolin. 

These scaly creatures eat an insectivorous diet mainly of ants and termites but will occasionally eat other vertebrates such as bee larvae, worms and crickets. 

They come out in the evening to dig for their food from ant/termite mounds, stumps and fallen logs using their claws and long sticky tongues to capture their prey.


In South Africa the pangolins are ready to reproduce at two years of age for 1 – 2 days during the month of March. Females give birth to a single baby pangolin after carrying for about 135 days in the winter months of July or August.

Baby pangolin scales are soft and pale in colour, beginning to harden from the second day of life. The pangolin mother is protective and nurturing, rolling around her baby when sleeping or danger is around. The baby is nursed for three to four months and eats insects from one month old. When the baby ventures outside, they hitch a ride on the base of their mother’s tail or cling to her back scales.

Giant pangolin. 

Did you know?

They mate side by side with the male forcing his tail beneath the female helping to mating. 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Rarely seen creatures of Africa - The Tsessebe antelope

Tsessebe antelopes.
The name for tsessebe antelopes comes from the Tswana name for the species – tshesebe. These antelopes are also known as topi's. 

Being darkish red brown in colour with a slight purple sheen over its coat, along with a distinctive hump on their back and a long narrow face, the tsessebe antelope is rather peculiar looking.

This large buck is the fastest of all antelope found in Africa being able to run up to speeds over 80km/h. The females weigh in at 126kg with their male counterparts at 140kg. These antelope’s horns usually grow 37 to 40 cm’s, with a record length measured of 47cm.


They are found to be living on the plains of African countries from Angola, Zambia and Namibia to Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. In the rainbow nation of South Africa, they are restricted to the northern parts of the country within the Kruger National Park as well as provincial and private game reserves. 

Tsessebe's enjoy a life in a lightly wooded area or grassland and take up home in territories within 5km away from a water source such as floodplains or lakes. 

Bull tsessebe checking the surroundings. 

These antelopes are social animals living in breeding groups of six to ten cows with their young or larger herds of up to 30 territorial bulls. When a young males turns one they are banished from the herd and go onto form bachelor herds with other young bulls.

Males show their territorial dominance by scraping the ground with their hooves using their inter-digital glands on their front hoof or rubbing the sides of their faces on the ground. Both males and females mark their territories with their pre-orbital glands.

Territorial males stand on higher ground such as termite mounds to investigate their surroundings. When danger is upon them they hurry away with their herd members stopping to look back at how far away their hunter is.

These antelopes doze in small groups standing up with their heads bobbing up and down. However when they are fully exhausted they lie down on their chests resting their mouths on the ground.

A female tsessebe with her calve.

Tsessebe antelopes are considered to be fussy eating herbivores grazing on a variety of only the freshest of grass or browsing on leaves and not eating the stems. They love burnt areas because of the fresh growth of new plants coming to life to eat.


They mate during the late summer months of February through to March, and the females give birth to one calve, seven months later. When the bulls are interested in a female they put on an extravagant show by parading in front of them, high stepping and pointing their noses in the air.

Did you know?

Their numbers are declining in the wild.

They defecate regularly as a territorial marking.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Rarely seen creatures of Africa - The Scrub hare

Scrub hare. 
The difference between rabbits and hares are that rabbits are born hairless and hares are born with a fully haired coat. Hares also have a longer pair of back legs than rabbits.

These not so commonly seen hares often don’t survive past their first year; if not caught by a side-striped jackal, cheetah, predatory birds, caracal or hunters, they can live to be up to 5 years old in the wild. 

The scrub hare is a grizzled-grey colour with tiny black speckles on the fur with a white underneath.  They have long grey ears and a cute black and white tail on their end. When lying down they are well-camouflaged and hidden from predators in the long grass.


Scrub Hares are only found in Southern African countries, from Ethiopia, Senegal, Uganda, and Kenya to Angola, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Nigeria and Mozambique as well as South Africa. 

They make their homes in shrubs, tall grasslands and savannahs avoiding deserts. These hares do not live in burrows like rabbits, but prefer to make hollows under bushes.


These nocturnal animals are solitary animals that only interact with another hare when on the look-out for a mating partner. They prefer to eat in the open grass at night but do come out earlier if the sky is overcast.
You can see the large ears on this Scrub hare.

The scrub hare will run in a zigzag pattern at speeds up to 70km/h to avoid capture from predators. They have also been seen my drivers at night zigzagging as they run in front of cars.


These hares are herbivores munching mostly on short, green grass but during droughts will also eat leaves and stems.


Breeding season peaks between the start of spring in September through to summer at the end of February, although these hares do breed all year long from the age of 1 years old.

An adorable baby Scrub hare.
Up to three males may follow a female hare competing for her attention by ‘boxing’ with their forefeet or kicking with their long back legs.

Female scrub hares carry their young for up to 42 days sometimes having up to 4 litters of one to three baby hares a year! 

Mother hares are not very motherly only suckling their babies at night for a short while. The babies are born fully haired with open eyes and developed enough to take care of themselves not long after birth. The youngsters lead independent lives from a month old. 

Did you know?

They eat their very own faeces to gain extra nutrients needed. 

Baby hares are known as leverets. 

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

20 interesting facts you didn’t know about South Africa

South Africa is a beautiful diverse country with an abundant amount of wildlife, stunning scenery, enjoyable food, a range of cultures and friendly people.

Officially called, Republic of South Africa, the country has a pulsating history, since 1652 when Jan van Riebeeck set up a refreshment station in Cape Town.


South Africa produces the world’s most macadamia nuts.

Three of some of the world’s fastest animals are found to be roaming the plains of Africa – the cheetah, the wildebeest and the lion.

Table Mountain, found in Cape Town, is believed to be one of the oldest mountains on the planet.
Table Mountain, Cape Town.

About 850 species of birds are found in South Africa; some permanent residents, some are yearly visitors.

South Africa has 560 wineries and 4 400 wine producers. The world’s longest wine route is Route 62, found in the beautiful Cape Winelands.

Kruger National Park has the leading diversity of wildlife species in Africa.

The Cape Floral Kingdom is the planets smallest of the six floral kingdoms.

There are more than 2000 shipwrecks off the coast of South Africa, most dating back to at least 500 years ago.

There are 3 capital cities in South Africa; Pretoria - administrative, Bloemfontein – judicial, Cape Town – legislative.

The country is five times the size of Japan and three times the size of the US state, Texas.

Lesotho is its own country surrounded completely by South African borders.

South Africa was the first country to build their own nuclear weapons and then voluntarily give up and dismantle their nuclear programme.

The country is one of the world’s top gold producers.

Durban's port. 
Durban has the largest port in the whole of Africa, and the ninth largest in the world.

South Africa has one of the world’s most official languages in a country, with 11 official languages.

SABMillers is a South African brewery and the second largest in the world.

Rooibos meaning red bush, is a tea which is only grown in the Cederberg area of the Western Cape.

There are about 280 000 windmills on farms across the country.

Chris Hani-Baragwanth Hospital is situated in Soweto and is the third biggest hospital in the world.

Cape Town has the fifth-best blue sky in the world according to the UK’s National Physical Laboratory.